Categories
Culture Tech

We make great trends

Some people enjoy the process of discovery. They want access to niche communities and discrete resources, trying to “get it” before everyone else.

These people are also the incubators of trends, filtering the good from the bad before deciding what goes mainstream. Naturally, the edgy curator loses interest as soon as something becomes a commercial sensation.

But the internet flips the trendsetters on their heads. The so-called cratediggers become an uber tribe of their own. Take a walk around Brooklyn, where hipsters run rampant.

The arrogance of taste consumes the hipster, ultimately conforming to a cohort that shares similar interests and looks the same. Uniqueness becomes standardization. 

Meanwhile, the closet researcher remains individuated in digging up abstract art for themselves and for their little circle. For them, popularity is rarely a barometer of what matters

The difference between standing out and fitting in lies at the center of who we are. We are all collectors and explorers of each other’s artifacts. We are also free to throw away, remix, redefine, or tweak that which sturs us.

As influential physicist Richard Feynman reminds us, “You are under no obligation to remain the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even a day ago. You are here to create yourself, continuously.”

Categories
Arts Creativity

A window through popularity

Popularity rarely equates to quality, particularly when it relates to art that’s abundant like books, music, and paintings.

It’s impossible to sift through catalogs of content and proclaim one piece better than the other. Popularity is often the result of mass marketing.

Budgets dictate following. A bank-backed Universal Studios will always create more awareness than a small independent studio for new releases. Warner Music gets its roster featured on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and radio with some paid dollars. Meanwhile, the best a bedroom musician can hope for is a feature on Soundcloud.

Popularity is bunk, especially in the age of algorithms that recommend playlists based on paid (non-organic) buzz.

Some things are only unpopular because they’re unknown, not for a lack of quality.

Art necessitates discovery. It calls for human curation, not an algorithmic machine. Thankfully, the Internet has a long-tail.

Niches create tribes which expose artists to the rest of the Internet. This is how small artists with zero budgets build up a rabid fan base to compete against mainstream artists.

The reality is that most work remains unknown. For the curator, that’s the best part. The hunt to find that needle in the hey makes collecting artifacts more personal, i.e. pleasurable.

Being the purple cow in today’s age seems to be the only right way to go. The last thing an artist wants to happen is fame following by predictability. Art is a persistent stimuli.

Uniqueness is how writers, actors, painters, and musicians get discovered in the first place.

“I have the vanity of an artist, I want my work to be seen, but I don’t have to be seen.”

David Hockney

Scaling happens to the craft. The making is really all that matters.

Categories
Culture Politics & Society Social Media

How status and likability affect your health 


Popular people live longer.

As social animals, the number of friends predetermines our well-being and lifespan. The gregarious live long than loners.

But life hinges on authenticity — it is not a popularity contest.

The number of people we know means nothing if there’s zero reciprocation. The other person(s) have to like us back. There’s a real benefit to solid relationships.

Think back to high school: were you amiable to a few trusted friends or sworn to attention?

The same question applies to our behavior online. It’s rare to have both status — millions of followers — and likability. The difference between the two is subtle.

Explains Mitch Prinstein, UNC psychology professor and author of the book Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World:

“Likability is markedly different from status — an ultimately less satisfying form of popularity that reflects visibility, influence, power, and prestige. Status can be quantified by social media followers; likability cannot.”

Mitch Prinstein

If we’re looking for happiness in the credibility of numbers, social media is the wrong game to play. Happiness links to likeability, not our number of followers.

It pays to be both well-known and well-liked if we want to extend our lives. So how do we start? For one, we can be kind to others, remembering their name, and seek a thread of commonality.

gif via Tony Babel

Categories
Creativity Culture

The unclassifiable

When we stop becoming someone for everyone, we start to find the right people instead.

That’s not to say we want to remain unknown or unclassifiable. One can still ride the wave of uniqueness and make a big splash.

Do you think Radiohead cares about the pop charts? The band thrives at the fringes, showing fans where sound could be headed, not where it’s been.

People love Apple because they make instruments for creativity you never knew you’d need. It also gives its customers, the curators and creators, all the spotlight.

We don’t have to dumb down our work for the masses when we can make more interesting things for the micro. Wider adoption, should it happen, happens to the ideas worth spreading.